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A Day among the old settlers of Jennings, Scott and Jefferson Counties

Last Saturday we at attended the meeting of the Old Settlers of Jennings, Jefferson and Scott counties, at Paris. These meetings were first originated four years ago, by the pioneers of that section. Paris was selected on account of its central location between the three counties named and because it is the oldest town in this locality, having been settled and located in 1816, hence its appropriate location.

Early in the morning, almost before sunrise, and up to 10 o'clock, wagons, carriages and buggies lined the road loaded with men, women and children. Upon arrival of the train from the east, about 9:30 a.m., Daniel Lewis, chief marshal, and Griffin Oliver, John E. Wilson and James D. Hudson, assistants, formed the procession at the Depot, with the Lexington Cornet Band in the lead and marched to the grounds, one half mile distance from the depot, while the majority of those on foot took a "short cut" across the woods. The members of the band were orderly and gentlemanly and rendered excellent music. The choir, consisting of forty voices selected for the especial occasion by Prof. Whitsett from his classes in the three counties, acquitted themselves with honor. Their music was splendid, and the Glee Club was the feature of the day. Their music was probably more ancient than that in vogue at the present time, but it was none the less music and was well rendered.

A programme had been arranged in which the exercises of the day had been mapped out, but as is usual on such occasions it was not followed, hence we will make an attempt to follow the order. The exercises were commenced by Hon. Daniel Blotcher calling to order and explaining the objects, reading the programme and introducing Chief Marshal Daniel Lewis, and old white haired sire, whose firm step and loud voice indicated that while he had lived many years, he had probably many years yet before him, who announced the purposes of the meeting and announced Rev. William B. Lewis, who addressed a divine throne of grace, and in absence of Governor Williams, whose failure to attend had caused a sore disappointment, Col. Andrews, the oldest attorney at the Jennings county bar, if not in the State, who is always ready to make a speech on such occasions and who invariably talks well, occupied a part of the time allotted to Governor Williams in the programme, but owing to serious disposition spoke only a short time. The Colonel was born in Vermont, in the Green Mountains. As the immortal Stephen A. Douglas once remarked, a good place to be born, if a person got away as soon as they were able to crawl, which Colonel is 77 years of age, and has resided in this state and county 62 years.

Prof. J. J. Cravens and a number of others whose names we did not learn followed until an adjournment was had for dinner. After dinner, Mr. William Deputy, the first white male child that ever lived in Jennings county, and who moved to this county near where this meeting was held and lived in the neighborhood ever since. At the conclusion of his speech Daniel Lewis, in behalf of the ladies of Paris and vicinity, presented him with a beautiful bouquet, which Mr. Deputy accepted and gallantly thanked the fair donors.

Mr. Z. Loyd, an intelligent, wide awake pioneer of Jefferson county, aged 76, then exhibited a loom so ancient that few of the audience had ever seen its like before, and a pillow slip that was made by hand, of flax grown before 1810. Mr. Loyd spoke enthusiastically in praise of pioneer women and gallantly awarded them great praise for the valuable assistance rendered by them in the settlement of this county long ago.

He was followed by Mr. Deputy, who appears to be the moving spirit in these meetings, and exhibited a number of old relics among which was a coil of rope made of hickory bark fifty years ago, an Indian tomahawk, a scalping knife, which has more than once lifted the hair and caused a white man to become suddenly bald-headed, the card that made the first roll ever made in Jennings county, a miniature block-house and fort surroundings, and an old fashioned coffee morter made of yellow beech wood in 1813, and is exactly like that used by the druggists today, expect the latter is made of different material. This was the property of Betsy Jane Robbins and was first bought by Joe Hall in Augusta, Maine, and brought over the Aleghaney mountains in 1817, down the Ohio river to Richmond, Clermont county, Ohio, on a raft in 1818, and to Indiana in 1854, and has been in use 66 years. Mr. Jefferson Nelson, who would not consent that we should write his name in any other manner that Jeff Nelson, then recounted his experience as a pioneer and repeated a number anecdotes that were very popular in his younger days. Mr. Stevens was born in Vermont in 1807, and moved to Jefferson county in 1820, since which time, he moved to Paris where he now resides.

William Dent Clark, who was born in Maryland, March 16, 1788, and as he expressed it, raised in Virginia, having been taken when he was three years old, moved to Indiana in 1820 and since which time he has lived in Jackson and Scott counties then interested the audience with a short sketch of his life, and he was followed by a number of others whose names we did not catch until the stentorian voice of Hon. Dan Blotcher attracted our attention, and who made an interesting speech, and except one little matter, that we heartily endorsed, and that was his severe criticism of the young ladies of the present day. He was especially hard on piano players, and any one listening to his speech would imagine that the sound of music never reached his ear. Yet we happen to know that such is not the case, that there is no one in this country who more truly appreciates music, than this same "Dan Blotcher," as he is familiarly called. A visitor going to his house will find there two organs, and good ones too, and we doubt if there is a room or closet in the house, but that there hangs a violin or some sort of musical instrument. Daniel is a good preacher, but when his sermons condemns music you can rest assured he does not practice what he preaches.

Dr. Blotcher of Holman, then spoke for a short time, and was followed by Daniel Lewis a robust hearty pioneer, who had worked hard all day and did not appear to suffer in the least from fatigue who made a speech characteristic of the man, and full of the fire and vigor of a sturdy man. By mingling with the crowd we obtained the names and ages of the following old persons, who with a very few exceptions were present.

John McCrary 86, Jacob Ferris 86, Thomas Staples 71, Mrs. Thos. Staples 70, Jesse Tate 75, Mrs. Jesse Tate 67, Mrs. Martha Gossett 90, Samuel Wells, born in Pennsylvania, 1799, moved to Indiana and settled on Davis' Branch, near Paris in 1800, and has lived in that neighborhood ever since. John Ross 80, David McClain 77, participated in the organization of Scott, and assisted in establishing the county seat at Lexington. Col. A. Andrews 77, Wm. Deputy 72, Andy Byfield 73, Mrs. Jennie Wilson 78, David T. Tobias 63, James Johnson 74, Daniel Lewis 77, Wm. Lewis 63, Darius Robins 84, Fielding Lett 63, John T. Tobias 66, Wm. Todd 67, James Keith 90, James Vardimore 87, Mrs. Susan McDowell 75, Daniel McGonigal, Jeffersonville 79, and says he can throw down or outrun any young man on the ground. Phoebe Zenor 84, Wm. Carr 79, David Day 76, Polly Miller 77, Michael McGinn 85, David Doty 75, Elmoth Rosebery 75, Mrs. Charles Graham 75, Mrs. Charles Graham 73, Darby Fetherston 82, Mrs. Darby Fetherston 83, James Tanner and wife 80 and 75, James Green 91, Mrs. Jas. Green 86, Henry Sullivan 74, Benj. Myrick 68, Jas. Brown 77, Wm. Dent Clark 92, B. F. Russel 68, John Lattimore 70, Robert Tweedy 62, Martin Adams 82, Jas. Mitchell 72, Thomas Dryden 86, James Chinoweth 79, John Kimberlain 97, Jas. Jackson, Jefferson county 97, Elias Tobias 74, E. Allen 69, William Cave 78, Martha Adams 82, Hugh Flenner 67, Elmira Carr 75, Mrs. Mary Deputy 63, Mrs. Sarah Ewing 76, William Brazelton 75, Mrs. Jane Wilson 61, James Polk 60, Wm. Thurston 82, James Green 86, Lewis Ross 72, and his wife aged 71 were married in 1821 and have lived happily together ever since, and when we saw them both looked rugged and were nursing grand-children who were almost young men and women. Eastman and a number of others whose names we would have been glad to have but were unable to obtain. Much disappointment was occasioned by the absence of Kinder Ferguson, the oldest man in the state, if not in the entire country, but it was utterly impossible to convey him to the ground without endangering his life. His two sons, Andrew and Richard aged 84 and 80 and his youngest child Mrs. Wm. Gobin aged 62 were on the ground and mingled with the crowd.

A permanent organization was effected for the purpose of maintaining, perpetuating and extending these meetings, and collecting information for future historical matter. The following named persons were appointed on the committee from the different counties.

Jennings--Col. A Andrews, Dan Lewis and S. H. Dixon.
  Scott--Dan Blotcher and Powers
  Jefferson--C. K. Laird and Nat Rector
  Jackson--Alex Davidson and John McDonald
   Bartholomew--J. N. Marsh and Col. John A. Keith
  Ripley--George R. Griffin and Davidson Read
   Clark--M. B. Cole, T. L. Harper and Dr. Field
  Washington--Hugh Flenor and Thomas Lester.

Speech of Wm. Deputy

Old settlers ladies and gentlemen, I come on this stand to-day to tell you about the first settling of Jennings county, and its history since. I was born in Western Virginia, Wood county, in 1807. November 1810 we left there and floated down the Ohio river on a rude flat boat, or raft until we landed at Coopers ferry, five miles below the now beautiful city of Madison. We immediately struck across the country and halted in the Coffee creek valley. This was in December 1810. We erected a cabin, cut out a doorway and moved in before it had a door, floor, chimney or a single crack stopped, and built a fire against the logs. We never paid any attention to the smoke but went to bed, this was in the winter and I assure you we had plenty of cool fresh air to breath that night. Now then this was the first sight of a wilderness life and methinks I hear some one say you had a fresh night to begin with, so we had, but it was only beginning, and a small one at that. Our greatest trouble was with Indians, who had a camp on our land. This was in 1811 when Harrison and Tecumsch were preparing for war which put the Indians in a bad humor and when we went to bed we did not know but that we would be deprived of breathing that fresh air before morning and if we had been murdered there were would have been no human aid to bury us and wolves would have eaten our bodies; this is a lonesome thought. Now then we were in a lonesome wilderness and looked like a common set. We had a few chairs, made some stools; fixed up some bedsteads in one corner of the cabin, and made a safe by boreing holes in the logs putting in pins and laying clapboards on them for shelves. If our dishes fell off we received no damage because they were nothing but pewter--no breakage. Think for a moment and imagine what your thoughts would be if you were to enter a cabin and see a set of children eating mush and milk out of a gourd with a big chubby pewter spoon. Daniel Boones wife and daughter were the first white women who ever lived in Kentucky. Roosevelt's wife was the woman that took the first ride on a steamboat from Pittsburg and New Orleans and my mother was the woman that baked the first Johnny cake in Jennings county and I am one of the little tads that helped to eat it. Remember now that we were in this--the Coffee creek valley, eating Johnny cake, pumpkins, potatoes, homminy, roasting ears, mush and milk, jerked bear, turkey and everything and everything we could catch that was good to eat. Now Old Settlers this was in the year 1810 and I don't know what you think but if I would have been big I would have been a long way from that place. The red man that prowled through the wilderness added greatly to its lonesomeness. The bear, panther and rattlesnake made us feel like we were in a savage land sure enough. A man that goes through trials, perils, privations and hardships of wilderness will, unless he has the courage of Joshua or Caleb, fail or wish himself back in Egypt or Virginia. When my father left Virginia and into the bosom of this forest he left behind not only the busy hum of men, but domestic life generally. His object was to obtain rich land for his children, he bought 320 acres of good land from the government, hired a company of militia to guard us until they built a block house which was afterwards known as the Deputy block house, this was in the year 1813. I believe. While living at this block house the militia went out to the Delaware towns and routed the Indians and brought in one scalp, the first I had ever seen. During the years 1813, 1814 and 1815 we had human assistance, though 1811 and 1812 was the lonesome time in Jennings county, for us at least. We were compelled to go to old Johnny Work's mill, three miles east of Charleston for bread stuff and a part of the way through the woods at that. Some one says "it is a wonder you did not get lost." Oh! bless you we had the tree blazed and when we got a sack of meal we made it go as far as we could, by mixing it with pumpkins, eating hominy, roasting ears and as I have told you before every good thing we could catch.
   Old White Eyes, Killbuck, Tradewell, Anderson and a great many other Indian chiefs, squaws and papooses have been in our cabin. Indian chiefs, squaws and papooses have been in our cabin. On the 10th day of June, 1816, my father died, and left mother with six little children to combat the world as best she could. Fortunately for her and us the savages had by this time gone back and neighbors had settled in our neighborhood, and we were no longer in such great dread of the Indiana. Mother had lived in the wilderness six years, and during that time she had learned how to manage, so that after the burden fell upon her and she had the six children to raise, away out here in this wilderness, several hundred miles from father, mother, brother or sister, in a little cabin, all alone, she heroically fought the fight. It is wonderful. I will throw in a little word of apology here. I had not the advantages of an education; my time and strength were needed by my mother, to assist in making a living. Mother raised all six of us to become heads of families, and three are yet living. My mother was a good woman, she worked late and early to make her family comfortable. Now I will tell you something about our farming. Mother hired a man to break up the ground and plant it, and then my brother and myself cultivated the crop, but neither of us had ever managed a horse, so mother assisted us to harness a good bidable horse, and went out into the field and started us into a row with a flask harrow, and then returned to the cabin, without telling us anything about how to manage the horse. Our ground was rather sidling, and the harrow was inclined to run down the hill and get on the corn, and sometimes take up some. So Bub would say to the horse, "A little higher up the hill Shin." When mother found out how we had been talking to the horse she told us what to say, and the horse understood the word. When we went out into the field after dinner we were well posted and got along finely. We raised corn, wheat, potatoes, cabbage and all such things in a quantity sufficient to last us through the winter, and to spare our neighbors enough to pay our taxes, to procure salt, leather for our shoes, and a pound of coffee once in a while. We made our own clothing, which was coarse and strong; our food was of the kind that is easy digested and I never saw preserves or jellys in those times, nor a boy, except my brothers or the papooses, for six months. We lived in the wilderness indeed, and I do not know but we had a harder time than Moses had in the wilderness, for he had company and we had none, he could obtain manna by simply picking it up while we had to go thirty miles for ours and pay our dollar per bushel for it then. I will now tell you of a boy with who I was well acquainted. He was raised in the big woods, and had never seen or heard of a carpet, but one day went to town to visit his uncle who had some business with a man and went into his office; but first he went to his dwelling and found the door open; in there this boy saw a nice cover lid spread upon the floor, as he thought, and to his surprise his uncle walker right over it. This little fellow thought it would never do to make dirty tracks upon it, so he jumped as far as he could toward the fireplace so he would make as few tracks on the "cover lid" as possible. His uncle looked at him in surprise to see the boy coming in like a snake with a toad in its mouth, but never said a word, and the people never cracked a smile, and the little fellow escaped without being laughed at, but after they got out of the house the uncle explained to the little boy that coverlid was a carpet and made to walk on, the consequence was that the boy never made such leaps again. In 1814 a man came into our neighborhood in search of land and stopped at our cabin. The next day he started out on a hunt, and when he had got some miles away he saw an Indian and became so frightened that he ran until he could run no longer and pitched himself into a thicket of weeds where he laid despite the severe biting of the musqitoes, afraid to move, until he was almost exhausted; finally he came loitering into our cabin the worst musquito bitten man I ever saw.
   I will now tell of a bush that stands in-Deputy. When I first knew it sixty-six years ago, it was perhaps as thick as my leg-no thicker-now it measures fifteen feet in circumference. There has been a great change, not only in that bush but in this entire western wilderness of solitude, and no one who has never experienced can conceive the reality of it; but how changed it is now dotted over with fine houses, barns, mills, factories, towns, cities, churches, school-houses and almost everything that a civilized world needs, but we should not forget that it is also dotted with grave yards in which are laid many, very many of the old people that first settled here, with a few exceptions they are all gone. I claim to be the oldest settler remaining, and I will soon be gone and there will be none left to tell about the first cabin in Jennings county. I have lived in solitude and a lonesome wilderness, in a fort called Campbell's fort; I have slept in Deputy block house; I have lived in the first cabin ever erected in Jennings county; seen the first rail laid, the first grain of corn, and my brother is the first white child ever born in the county, and now when the evening shade begins to close around me, the cricked begins to sing and the Whippoorwill to cry from the dark and lonesome forest it makes me almost feel that they were in the grave yard along with their old neighbors and friends. Those who came to this county in 1810 and 1811, had no human aid; if a rattlesnake bit you, you must cure yourself or die. If you got sick you had a lonesome time of it-no doctor- no one to give you a word of comfort. No one knows the worth of water until the well runs dry, so no one knows the worth of human aid so well as those who has had it not. Therefore I contend that those who came here in 1815 knows but little of the real loneliness of a wilderness, because he had someone to give him aid and comfort.
   The pioneer is the forlorn hope of civilization. He marches into the wilderness and encounters peril, hardship and suffering in a thousand different forms, and this is what prepares the way for those who follow. To a person who has witnessed all the changes that have taken place in the western country since its first settlement, its former appearance is like a dream, and he will find it difficult to realize the features of that wilderness that was the abode of his infant days. The little cabin of his father no longer exists; the little field and truck patch, that gave him a scanty supply of course bread and vegetables, have been swallowed up in the extended meadow, orchard or grain field; the rude fort in which he resided has vanished and like the baseless fabric of a vision, left not a wreck behind. A man who goes into a wilderness surrounded with dangers, is the sentinel of his own safety, and relies upon himself alone for protection. At that time almost every house contained a loom; almost every woman was a weaver. If a man was away at a house raising or log rolling he was punished when he wanted help. A man that would shirk his duty on a scout or campaign epithets of dishonor were fastened upon him without mercy. Debts, that make such an uproar among us now, were but little known in the early settling of this country. When everything was paid for in produce or labor. If a contract was not punctually fulfilled, the credit of the delinquent was at an end. Bankruptcy laws would not have been worth a continental in those days. If a ranger stole a cake out of the ashes in which it was baking for his comrade, he was immediately the "bread hound" and never heard the last of it, and if he was "sassy," the consequence was he got a good paddling, and if a woman was given to tattling and slandering her neighbors, she was furnished by common consent with a kind of patent-right to say what she pleased without being believed by anybody. If a boy, at the age of fifteen, could go eighty rods from the cabin, secrete himself, and gobble like a turkey, howl like a wolf, or blate like a fawn, it was considered that he would make a good hunter and a brave soldier. The latter is what every man had to be. Since this is a state of society which very few of my hearers have ever witnessed, I will endeavor or to describe it as well as I can.
   In the first place let it be remembered that in a sparsely settled country as this was at that time, where all are known to each other, and especially in a time of war, when every man capable of bearing arms is considered highly valuable as a defender of his country, public opinion has its full effect, and answers the purpose of a legal government much better than it would in a dense population and a time of peace. At this time we had no laws-at least none that were enforced-and yet we were a law unto ourselves as to the leading obligations of our natures in all the relations in which we stood to each other.
   I now close, and return my sincere thanks to my dear friends and this kind people, for their attention, and most ernest thanks, to the dear old settlers, and my comrades of other years, the pioneers of this beautiful country, for coming here today. Ere another year has rolled around, I may be with my God, and my friends "over the river," and may never be with you again. We have passed our morn, seen our noon, and soon, maybe very soon, will have passed our night. Farewell, my friends, farewell!

Mr Nelson kindly furnished us the following brief sketch of his life, and we would be pleased if other persons would do likewise.
  Jeff Nelson was born at Waterbury, Vermont, October 11, 1807, emigrated from there September 19th, 1819; and reached Lawrence county, Ohio, by means of an ox team, November 30th. In March 1820, left there for Madison, which trip was made in a flat boat in four days; from Madison he moved to what is now known as Lancaster, Jefferson county, built a cabin two miles from the known habitation of any white habitation and retained his residence in that place until he moved to Paris in 1877, where he now lives as an old settler. In politics he is a republican, and has been a member of the church of Jesus Christ for the past 40 years.
  Through the kindness of Prof. Whitsett we were put in possession of a list of names and ages of each member of the Old Folks Glee Club but by some means unknown it has been spirited away--someone "hooked" it. However, we will publish those who have not escaped our memory, and trust those we don't will be furnished to us by some friend, in order that we may publish a complete list in connection with the speeches delivered by Col. Andrews and others next week.
   Prof. Whitsett, leader, John E. Wilson, Wesley Whitsett, George McLanahan, Harvey McLanahan, Abner Green, P.B. Wilson, John C. Wilson, Samuel Nay, Evan Griffith, Allen W. Brown, John Hopkins, Fielding Lett, Joseph Smith, W.W. Herod, J.L. Herod, Presley Scott, Joshua Tibbits, Joseph Whitsett, Hon. Danl Blotcher, C. Whitsett and others.
  The officers of this association, during the past year, and by whose devotion and untiring energy, in a great measure, the success of this meeting was due, were Dr. B.F. Russell, president, Col. A. Andrews and William McLanahan, vice presidents, James D. Hudson, secretary, A.R. Shepherd, Henry Dixon, W.W. Dixon, George Riggs, committee of arrangements.
  The entire work of preparing the grounds, erecting stands, seats, &c. devolved upon D.L. Lecther, and James A. Haas, who performed their part to the satisfaction of themselves and everyone else. Their labors were unceasing, and they did all in their power to accommodate the hosts in attendance.
  The number in attendance was variously estimated at from five to ten thousand persons, and good judges insist that there were eight thousand persons on the grounds, and that it was the finest gathering of country people they had ever seen. Much credit is due the officers of the day for the splendid order observed, and the general good feeling so universally prevalent. It was a grand day, and one that will long be remembered by the old settlers and their friends, who will longingly look forward to the next meeting of these sturdy old pioneers.

GLEANINGS"Griff" Oliver attracted more attention than any other man on the ground, and made many friends by his genial good humor and strict attention to his duties.
  Lewis Law and Holman Rolland, disappointed more people than did "Uncle Jimmey." Thousands of people looked long and anxiously for the appearance of that choir of ten, that had evidently weakened and was afraid to put in an appearance.
  Judge D.M.Hill was absent for the first time since these meetings had been organized.
  But few visitors had nerve enough to visit Shiliady cave and mineral springs.
  John E. Wilson, makes a splendid interviewer. The way he gallanted us around among the old folks will long be remembered.
 The paddle wheel man; the cheap John; pinchback; jewelry snide; that would give you "ten dollars worth of goods for twenty five cents," and the patent medicine hawker with is cure-alls were all there, and the way they coaxed the nickels out of the verdant youths that hovered around their dead falls, was amazing.
   All the old folks, we interviewed were born in Kentucky or Virginia, one each in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Main and Vermont.
   Ed Bare, a jolly youth from Madison, attended for the purpose of writing the meeting up, for the Madison press, but when he reached the ground he was so dazed by an apparition that it drove all thought of clips and lead pencils, and their uses from his mind. The manner in which he clung to that apparition, caused more than one young blood, to wish that the paper that had sent him there, was in that place Bob Ingersoll says do'nt was.
  Dailey, of the Jeffersonville News, stuck to his post manfully and obtained a full report of the entire days proceedings. Marsh, of the Columbus Daily Democrat, interviewed every man and woman, over sixty years of age, on the grounds. Ed. Shiel, galanted the ladies over the grounds and did not appear to care a continental what became of the Monitor Journal.
  Hass and Lafeber, measured out honest lemonade, and other refreshments, and their stand was one of the best arranged and tastiest on the ground. Mr. Wm. Gobin sold scores of Kinder Furguson's pictures, on the ground. Those most disappointed on account of the absence of the old gentleman, purchased one of his pictures and took it to their homes, where it will be deposited with the relics and curiosities of the household.

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